A Yenagoa Magistrate’s Court in Bayelsa on Tuesday freed 44 members of the Indigenous People of Biafra. (IPOB), detained since October 2016.
The Presiding Magistrate, Penawei Mukoro, upholding the no-case submission by the lawyer to the detainees, dismissed the three counts of conspiracy, breach of public peace and unlawful gathering levelled against them by the police.
The magistrate subsequently discharged and acquitted the accused persons.
The 44 IPOB members were arrested in October 2016 while meeting in Okaka area of Yenagoa, the state capital, by operatives of the Joint Military Task Force, Operation Delta Safe.
The suspects were later handed over to the police authorities for investigation and prosecution.
Mr Kingsley Nwosu, who represented the detainees, argued a ‘no-case submission’ before the court, describing the arrest and trial of his clients as a deliberate attempt to intimidate and violate the fundamental rights of people to freedom of assembly.
Nwosu said the prosecution, the Nigeria Police, failed to produce a credible witness to substantiate the three counts against the IPOB members.
“It is a case where there is a serious intimidation. And the prosecution could not produce a credible witness,” he told the court.
Magistrate Mukoro, in striking out the case, held that all the accused persons had no case to answer as the prosecution was unable to institute a prima facie case against them.
Earlier today, a Federal High Court in Abuja granted bail to the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu on health grounds, subject to meeting the conditions.